Customizing Canvas to navigate efficiently

The list view style on the dashboard page of Canvas.

Sage Smith

Canvas has options to customize its set up to aide students in managing their assignments and staying organized.

Amy Ward is the learning technologies coordinator for Iowa State’s Center for Excellence in Learning and Teaching (CELT).

Something Ward said she doesn’t think many people know about is the help options available on Canvas. The help tab can be accessed on the panel on the left side.

One of the options is a 24/7 Canvas Support Line. Ward said the support line allows the person helping access to what screen the student is on and all information is secure.

There is also ‘Canvas Guides’ which has videos on how to navigate particular problems the student may be experiencing with Canvas. One of the videos is a “Getting Started with Canvas” which can be useful for beginners.

At the start of each semester, Ward said she goes through tickets that come into the Solution Center to try and figure out how to make Canvas better for students and faculty.

“A lot of the things that I see this time of year, or at the beginning of fall semester, usually have to do with students playing around, trying to figure out how to use [Canvas] and then they change a setting and they don’t realize that now they’re not seeing something,” Ward said. “One of those things that I’ve noticed a lot is on the dashboard when you open Canvas.”

The dashboard is the first thing that comes up after a student or faculty member logs into Canvas. This is where the classes the student is taking for that current semester shows up and the classes the faculty member is teaching.

In the top right corner of the dashboard page there are three stacked dots that when clicked, open a list of three options for the dashboard view.

There’s a card view style where each class has a ‘card’ that when clicked on, reveals all the online components of the class.

After clicking on a particular class, students can then look through different tabs such as the “Modules” tab, “Assignments” tab, grades and more.

A second option available for the dashboard is a list view style. In the list view, the dashboard is displayed in a ‘to do list’ form. Instead of having a card for each class, the dashboard is broken up by day.

Students can also view recent activity on their dashboard, which includes announcements from instructors.

In the card view style, if there is an announcement from the instructor or grade update, one of the little icons will have a red notification symbol on it. This tells the student there is something new they can look at for that class.

“As long as they understand that they’re not seeing everything, it’s great to use [list view and recent activity],” Ward said. “But I think it’s just good to go back to card view and make sure you’re seeing everything in all your courses too.”

A calendar is also available on Canvas, which can be accessed on the same left panel as the dashboard tab. On the calendar page there is a list of courses in the bottom right corner.

Students can choose what classes show up on this calendar by clicking on the boxes next to the class name. Students can also create their own events or reminders in their calendar to keep everything in one place.

An individual calendar for each class can be accessed when clicking on the individual class on the courses menu.

In the top right corner of the home page for the class there is a tab labeled ‘View Course Calendar.’ Clicking the tab will go to the calendar page but only the assignments and announcements of that class will appear.

The student can then return to the calendar and the settings they have selected will remain the same. This allows the student to either view all or multiple classes at a time or view the calendar for one course at a time.

A problem students may experience is a missing class. Their registered class may be on their Canvas but isn’t showing up on their dashboard page or on the courses tab when clicked on.

A class can be searched for by clicking on the courses tab and then clicking on ‘All Courses.’ If the missing class shows up on this page, it can be added to the courses tab by clicking the star icon next to it so the star is colored in. This will add that particular class to the courses menu.

Students can also customize how they receive notifications from Canvas. The notifications are under the account tab. Students can receive email notifications and put in their phone number to have notifications texted to their phone.

A notification preference can be selected for all notifications including grade changes, comments on submissions, discussion posts and more.

Students can also use the studio tool, which is on the left side panel. On the studio tab, videos can be recorded and uploaded, including YouTube videos. When submitting a video assignment students can choose studio and select a video to directly submit.

If a student is looking for more in their Canvas experience, they can view things such as analytics for the class. The analytics tab can be found on the home page of a class in the top right corner.

‘New Analytics’ is right above the ‘View Course Calendar’ tab. The analytics tab will show students their grade for the class and weekly online activity such as page views.

If someone is having a problem with navigating Canvas or have questions about the site, they can email [email protected].